If I were to create a presentation of my life since 2017 to 2021, the beginning of the presentation would have been radically different than the current condition I am in. This is because I changed. Change takes place from the context of lifestyle practices, dark habits or attitudes, preferences and choice of environment. Regardless of the point in the process of change, efforts should not be discredited because a little is better than nothing at all. Depending on the degree of change, the phenomena could be either scary, satisfying, life-changing or tormenting given that making changes in ourselves is not always a walk in the park. It is, instead, an ordeal requiring discipline and courage to be persistent.
Cambridge Dictionary defines change (in this context) as:
“To make or become different”
This definition includes the word: different. This can’t be good because different is seldom perceived positively. Hey, go ahead and google ‘different meaning’…now tell me what you see.
Different also equates to – unalike, unusual, distinct and non-identical. And, unalike to WHAT?
Distinct to WHAT?
Uncommon to WHAT?
Different to the common practices and standards of yourself or your circle or the community.
People want to change all the time but change becomes difficult due to two factors – one internally caused and one externally caused. One tends to drop back into old habits quickly because it is easier, the norm or too afraid to continue. Given that humans are creatures of habit, we tend to stick to the comfort zone that defines our very identity from the perspectives in thought, behaviour, gesture and mentality. That’s a very human thing to do. Sometimes we can help it, sometimes we can’t. BUT, we try and we try again! Here’s a very simple problem that can be related to falling back into the norm: dieting or exercising! With indulgence (or eating and lazing around) to tempt you, we perceive that one ‘cheat day’ creates a gap in the progress of change. How about, rather than viewing it as a gap, you take it as a pause button from which you un pause when you feel fit. Be careful though! Pausing for too long a period of time might be dangerous because you become too comfortable and end up ‘shutting down’ the process.
If being human wasn’t much help in changing oneself, one has to deal with the burden, stress, judgements and anxiety that the world has ‘pleasantly’ offered. This is the difficulty when changing that is out of our hands. To set the scene, you have your inner self wanting to fall back and when you’ve gathered enough self-discipline, you have the negativity of your friends, acquaintances, colleagues and sometimes – family, to face. At this point, it’s definitely easier to wave the white flag and climb back into your safe place. How can external negativity impact one from changing? I’ll give you a scenario.
Imagine if you are in a circle that is slightly homophobic who calls out those who (in their heads) are not of the normative sexual orientation.
- One day, you decide that – enough is enough: “I am not going to prompt their attitude.” There you go, honey! You are doing great!! But are you though?
- The following week, you silence yourself when your circle makes homo jokes instead of joining them too (Hey, silence as a form of not tolerating is not enough but it’s a start and it’s meaningful!).
- Someone in your group says: “Oi, why aren’t you laughing?” and you freeze. Do you stick to your guts or fall back because you are afraid of what comes next?
- You stay silent, hoping they would move on to the next topic.
- Everyone falls silent and stare at you. ALL eyes on you now, you start to regret not laughing along with them earlier.
- “Are you gay?” BOOM. You hear judgement in their voice (and stares?? Like, how can a stare sound judgemental??) … ah, crap.
- You know you are straight but you don’t agree with their attitude, right? Yeah, tell ‘em you don’t agree!
- “It is their sexual orientation, and we should respect that. People are struggling.”
- Silence. Shock and maybe someone with a ‘ew’ face, but you can’t tell because they are wearing their masks.
In order not to add anymore awkward to the awkward, you propose to head off for a meal together. Thinking that everything past and crossing fingers that your friends GET what you are trying to implicitly tell them, you carry on as usual! “Good job!” you tell yourself. However, you realise no one invites you to have a meal anymore or to hang out or to do group work. Later, you find out that your friends avoid you because you support LGBT and some even call you gay! This is a form of isolation and trust me, it doesn’t feel great. So, you bring your sorry self back home and bring the issue up at the dinner table with your family – hoping for some empathy. The response?
“In the Book, it is not normal.”
“Man should love woman and vice versa. There is no third option.” “Honey, are you gay?”
“Your friends are mean to laugh but they are right…it’s not normal.”
You are alone. Alone in this fight to change for the better. Alone in your opinion. Alone with no one to back you up DESPITE trying. Although being anti-homophobic does not translate your straight sexuality, your change is perceived as odd, weird and almost disgusting. Do you try to continue your change? Or do you choose the socially accepted path? “Is changing really worth it?” you ponder. The picture I am trying to paint isn’t to tell you to give up because that’s just simpler and less stressful. It is to demonstrate how external negativity and rejection can highly affect an individual in their motivation to change.
Building on the context of external validation and acceptance, people change their attitude because they realise the need to after deep self-reflection and internal criticism. The self-evaluation kind of flicks an internal switch to say: “What I did was wrong, and I need to change so I don’t hurt or piss anyone anymore.” When it comes to changing your ‘dark self’, one might seek the need to make peace with the past. This confronting the past includes (not all steps) to identify your mistake, learn from the mistake, receive forgiveness, stop feeling guilty, focus on what you have and improve. From the 5-step mentioned, one part requires addressing who was wronged by your actions. However, one may never receive closure or forgiveness from that individual. I’m gonna give you another scenario.
Bryce Walker from 13 Reasons Why.
For those who have not watch or read it yet, [spoiler alert] Bryce is an aggressive, arrogant and violent character who was responsible of sexually assaulting and in several cases – raping girls in his school. It was not until the 3rd season Bryce (in his words) tried to change to become a better person.
Now, imagine if his change came sooner and more intense. He might not have been able to receive forgiveness from his past mistakes (talk also about why it is difficult to forgive or accept people’s change) but he stopped hurting other in his current present which whom would all have different futures if he succumbed back into his rape addiction.
At a macro level, he changed the lives and perception of himself of his circle of acquaintances, families and a school’s organisation because his crimes could have initiated a domino effect. One domino falling onto another causing a related string of issues.
At a micro degree, Bryce could have improved relationships with other (his mother, love interest and friends), probably making them healthier. Perhaps, he felt better at accepting himself for what he was – peace with himself.
The example of Bryce is an extreme case but what I want you to focus on the fruits of his change from a macro and micro spectrum. Bryce is rich so he gets away from the law as he pleases. The message is to change even when you feel it’s too late, to try even if you think everything is not working out and to pick yourself up even if you have fallen. Looking at the wider picture, his change changed the domino of misfortune that might have fallen on others if he did not have this switch in attitude. Despite not receiving forgiveness or closure from the victims, it should not be the reason to NOT change. Change is still meaningful.
Have you heard the saying?
“People will always remember your one mistake, not a thousand good things you did to them.”
However, just because people remember your one mistake and take your thousand good things for granted, do you continue making a dozen mistakes?
I hope that wraps up nicely the message that I am trying to deliver to you.
If you’ve read till this far, thank you. Basically, I want to highlight that changing is not an overnight process. Some changes take weeks, months and some take years. It also involves reflection, discipline and sometimes, confrontation. Whatever the case may be, as an observer of change, we should try to understand rather than abandon, to encourage rather than belittle, and … if it’s not too much – to accept and reflect on ourselves rather than entirely reject. To change takes courage; kudos to you who have tried and succeeded or tried and are still trying.
Don’t just put your shoes into those of others and assume you understand their struggles. Try walking in them before jumping to conclusions that suit your assumptions and comfortable bubble. The world needs a little more acceptance now more than ever.
Take care and stay strong.